Retribution Paladins vs Lich King

Retribution Paladins versus the Lich King.  It’s fitting isn’t it?  Arthas was a Paladin, and now we use what once was his greatest strength against him.  Icecrown Citadel is a spectacular raid dungeon in World of Warcraft, and everything culminates into fighting the Lich King at the end.  It took my guild almost three solid weeks to get him down, but we finally killed Arthas this past Tuesday.

My experience from three weeks of Lich King fights has taught me many, many things.  I have done my fair share of research on Lich King tactics and strategies from Elitist Jerks and the many other WoW forums, as well as Tankspot, Bosskillers, etc.  I try not to rely on one source too heavily at first, preferring to gather information and use the collective knowledge to formulate my gameplay approach.

With the Lich King dead, I now feel comfortable sharing my combat experience and recommendations.  Please keep in mind this is one of many strategies, and many Ret Paladins have taken down the Lich King now, so there are other ways and variations that may work as well.

Lich King Phases

Let us first delve into the phases and our responsibilities.  We have specific roles for each phase, and I will cover each individually, including the transitions/

  • Phase 1 – There will be two tanks, one on Arthas, and one on the adds.  A Ret Paladin’s job is to DPS down Arthas to 70%.  At 70%, we enter our first transition phase.  Should Necrotic Plague hit us, we must run to the other tank and the adds and cleanse ourselves of the Plague.  Return to DPS LK afterward.
  • Transition 1 – In between Phase 1 and 2, run to the outside ring of the platform.  There, a Ret Paladin will DPS down the Raging Spirits as quickly as possible.  This is our only job for transition.
  • Phase 2 – A Retribution Paladin must first kill any remaining Vile Spirits when Phase 2 begins.  Then, we focus on DPSing the Lich King. When a  Val’kyr is summoned, that is our top priority, and we stun, slow, and kill as quickly as possible.  The Val’kyr will pick up a random raid member, fly them to the edge of the platform, and drop them, thus killing them. We also must be aware of Defile, and should it land on us, run out and place the Defile away from the main group. Phase 2 ends when boss hits 40%.
  • Transition 2 –  Transition 2 occurs between Phases 2 and 3, and again, a Ret Paladin must kill the Raging Spirits, though there will be more of them this time.  Killing Raging Spirits is our one and only priority.  Transition 2 also occurs on the outer edge of the platform, identical to Transition 1.
  • Phase 3 – Kill any remaining Raging Spirits, then focus on Lich King. Vile Spirits will be dive bombing us, but ranged should be on them primarily, we can hit them with our AoE attacks as we DPS Lich King.  If a Ret Pally is summoned inside Frostmourne, DPS down the Spirit Warden ASAP.  It can be stunned.  Get Arthas down to 10% and Phase 3 ends.  At 10% Arthas kills the entire raid.  DO NOT RELEASE.
  • Phase 4.  King Terenas resurrects the entire raid, and Fordring and Terenas keep Arthas chained while the raid will DPS down his remaining 10% HP.  Kill Arthas, fight over.

Ret Paladin Lich King Fight

For my Lich King kill, there were 2 Ret Paladins, myself and Valdor.  I was judging wisdom and had Retribution Aura up.  Val was judging Light and had Devoti0n Aura.  Blessings of Kings and Might.  I used Seal of Vengeance the entire time.  Using Seal of Command is viable in several scenarios here, especially on the Val’kyrs, but we had enough group DPS, so keeping SoV up was viable this time around.

This fight is so long and so intense, there were times that I had severe mana shortage issues.  To alleviate this problem, I often made Divine Plea a priority in my rotations, and brought a full stack of mana potions as well.  There were times that I did have to use a mana pot instead of a haste potion.  Also, in dire mana situations, I removed Consecrate from my rotation completely, waiting until I had enough built back up to resume Consecrating in my FCFS.

With the skill of our tanks, I had zero threat issues.  I was able to DPS to max potential.  That said, it is very easy to pull threat on Raging Spirits as they spawn, so be very aware when they pop up.

Phase 1

Now, I will go into full detail on how I went about our Lich King kill. Phase 1 begins, and as I closed in on the Lich King, I hit Divine Plea, and began my FCFS rotations immediately, using Judgement as I closed in.  For this first phase our tank had Lich King facing away from his throne, with our OT keeping the adds off to the left (facing outwards).  Val and I kept ourselves positioned between the Lich King and the adds, often sitting at the very maximum edge of Arthas’s hit box.  This allowed our Divine Storm, Consecrate, and Holy Wrath to help DPS the adds down.

This also allowed us to run very quickly to the pack of adds to remove Necrotic Plague.  We, as Paladins, are responsible for removing Necrotic Plague ourselves with Cleanse.  Wait until you are in the middle of the pack of mobs to remove it, because once removed, it will jump to the nearest creature or player, no preference on friend or foe.  The idea is to get the plague on the mobs, which will stack up and deal large chunks of damage, thus killing them very quickly.  Leaving it on players means a wipe.  Be careful not to Cleanse too early, as it may jump to a friendly player before you reach the adds.

I used my Avenging Wrath as soon as I had 5 stacks of SoV, because the timing allowed me to use it again at a very important time in Transition 1.

Keep DPSing boss until 70 percent. This is a straight forward phase, and our priority is to DPS the Lich King.  Once he hit 70%, we ran to the outter edge of the platform for Transition 1.

Transition 1

In Transition 1, we are responsible for killing the Raging Spirits.  All other aspects of the fight will be handled by other roles.  The orbs, which do pose a threat if they reach us, should be handled by ranged DPS.  If one gets too close, Exorcism and Judgement may save your life.  If an orb hits you, you will be blown up and sent flying off the edge of the platform…an inevitable death.

Keeping Divine Plea active, I still had about 75% mana at this point, so no need to hold Consecrate yet.  When the second Raging Spirit popped, I waited until he was down to 50% HP, then I hit Avenging Wrath again to help speed the kill of the second spirit, allowing some full blown DPS on the third.  Phase 2 started with the 3rd spirit at around 70% HP.

Phase 2

The outer ledge falls off in Phase 2, so you will be running back to the middle.  As our MT grabbed LK, our OT still had the spirit, and they tanked both on top of each other (more or less).  We focused DPS on the spirit continuing DPS as it was dragged to the middle, and he was dead before the first Val’kyr spawned.

There are two things to watch out for in Phase 2: Val’kyrs and Defile.  As mentioned before, the Val’kyr will pick up a random raid member and carry them to the edge of the platform, dropping them to their death.  Defile targets a random player and will drop and AoE pool of black goo on the ground. Every time a player takes damage from Defile, the puddle will grow in size.  I have see Defile cover the entire platform…this is what will continuously wipe your raids.  Mastering Defile is the key to success in Phase 2.

  • Ret Paladins and Val’kyrs – Because the Val’kyrs can move to the edge quite quickly, we want to slow them down and stun them as often as possible.  We, as Ret Paladins, have three ways of doing this.  Hammer of Justice is our best option, stunning the Val’kyr for 6 seconds.  Val and I worked out a rotation for our hammers.  Me on first Val’kyr, him on second, rinse and repeat.  Second, is the often forgotten Judgement of Justice.  This WILL slow the Val’kyr down, and a Retribution Paladin should be using this on the Val’kyr every time it is judged.  Finally, Holy Wrath WILL stun the Val’kyr for 3 seconds, so use that as well.  Seal of Command works well here, but a I mentioned before, I just kept SoV up and we did fine.
  • Defile – The way we handled Defile was to call out Defile  5 seconds before it was cast.  At this time, we all moved away from the middle and spread out.  Whoever had the Defile would place it as far from the group as possible.  This can prove tricky during a Val’kyr spawn, so in these instances, we would wait to move out for Defile until the Val’kyr actually picked someone up. As soon as they did, the Val’kyr would be stunned by us, and then we would run immediately out.  We used the 5-second strat for every single Defile.

When the first Val’kyr dropped, I used my HoJ immediately, allowing for our attacks on the Val’kyr to hit the LK as well.  Defile came soon after, and we used a 5 second rule to call out before Defiled dropped, during which everyone would move away from the middle.  Whoever got Defile would towards the edge and place it as far away from the middle as possible.  I did not get Defile, so I continued DPS on the Val’kyr, and once it was down, went back on the Lich King.

The second Val’kyr and the second Defile always happen at almost the same time.  This requires some good DPS and Defile placement. During this phase I did get low on mana, so I dropped Consecrate from my rotation for about 15 to 20 seconds before resuming it.  I did get Defile once during this phase (towards the end), and managed to place it at the very edge of the platform.

At 40%, Arthas went into Transition 2, and we ran back to the edge of the platform.

Transition 2

During Transition 2, 4 Raging Spirits are summoned, at a much quicker pace. We used Heroism when the third spirit spawned, and I used my Avenging Wrath and Haste potion at this time. We had three spirits down when Transition 2 ended.  The final one we had to drag into Phase 3 with us.

Phase 3

Phase 3 is the last phase.  Defile will still occur, but Val’kyrs do not.  To replace Val’kyrs, the Lich King summons Vile Spirits, which spawn above him and swoop down on the raid, dealing large AoE damage.  Ranged will primarily be dealing with these, we stay on the Lich King.

After getting the last Raging Spirit down, we began our final assault on Arthas. With ranged clearing most of the Vile Spirits each time they spawned, all I really had to worry about was Defile.  Somewhere around 20% or so, we lost our main tank.  Without an available battle rez, we had to go without a second tank and heal through the damage.  It worked.  Because of the skill of our ranged DPS, avoiding Defiles was easy.  We dragged Arthas back and forth across the platform to help avoid Vile Spirits, and continued DPS until 10%.

  • Inside Frostmourne – For this attempt, I was not summoned inside, but I have been before.  Basically, you enter Frostmourne and see Terenas (Arthas’s dad) fighting a Spirit Warden.  As DPS, we kill the Warden.  If we were heals, we would be healing Terenas until he killed the Warden.  I drop in and immediately HoJ the spirit and just nuked the ever living hell out of him.  I was out in less than 12 seconds.  Use every interrupt you have, and whatever you do, you must kill the warden before Terenas dies, or the LK enrages for a short period of time.

During Phase 3 I put out as much DPS as I could.  Sadly, I actually died with about 15% HP left on the Lich King.  I was bombed by Vile Spirits.  I actually saw them coming, but didn’t activate my bubble in time.  Down one DPS and one tank, the remaining 8 players took Arthas to 10%.  Terenas rezzed us all, and we got our first Lich King kill!


While this fight seems chaotic, it is actually very methodical.  Once you get the mechanics down, they become easy to repeat.  That said, don’t underestimate the Lich King encounter.  This fight is extremely unforgiving.  One error by one player can cause an entire wipe.  This fight will push your skill as a player, so be prepared to give it 100%!

If there are any questions about this fight, please post them in the comments below.  If you have another strat that works as Ret, let us know as well!


  1. Harrason says:

    This crossed my mind when you mentioned using Judgement of Justice. I haven’t even killed Rotface yet on my guild so i am still kinda unsure, but maybe Seal of Justice might work?

  2. Xav says:

    I’m still to find it useful to interrupt something with my haste rating.

  3. Tony says:

    This crossed my mind when you mentioned using Judgement of Justice. I haven’t even killed Rotface yet on my guild so i am still kinda unsure, but maybe Seal of Justice might work?

  4. Polirmon says:

    ty for that guide, it helped me much

  5. Caelins says:

    Great guide – I am a holy paladin and was there for my guild’s first LK kill but am now trying my hand at ret.

    Just a point for the Raging Spirits – they have a cone AoE silence which can prove troublesome on the phase transitions – you’ll want to avoid this at all costs.

    Darkmoon Faire

  6. Khor says:

    Thanks Caelin, great info!


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